740.00115 European War 1989/276: Telegram
The Chargé in the United Kingdom (Johnson) to the Secretary of State
[Received February 19—11:30 a.m.]
Following from Berlin via Brussels and is Berlin’s 438, February 17, 2 p.m., to the Department.
A reply has been received from the German Foreign Office to the Embassy’s memorandum of December 1 which was based upon Department’s 973. This reply also refers to an Embassy aide-mémoire of January 23 which was presented to the Foreign Office in accordance with the authorizations and directives given in Department’s 118, January 16, 7 p.m. The aide-mémoire of January 23 conveyed certain supplemental information on this general subject received from London, reiterated the interest of the American Government as expressed in the last two paragraphs of Department’s 118 and concluded with the statement that the American Government would welcome any German observations on the memorandum of December 1.
The German reply under date of February 13 reads in translation as follows:
“The Foreign Office has the honor to confirm to the Embassy of the United States of America the receipt of the memorandum of December 1, 1939 with two enclosures and of the aide-mémoire of January 23, 1940, and to inform it as follows:
“The German Government has taken note with special interest of the efforts of the Government of the United States of America aiming by the conclusion of agreements to alleviate the lot of enemy civilians in the territory of the belligerents.[Page 193]
“The German Government is prepared, provided that reciprocity is granted, to recognize as binding upon itself in relation to Great Britain the following principles in the treatment of the British civilians in the Reich:
- No retaliatory measures will be taken against British civilians for acts for which they are not personally responsible.
- No mass internments of British civilians will take place.
- The internment of British civilians will be ordered by the competent authorities only after careful examination of the individual case. Every British civilian has the right to lodge a protest against his internment. The protest will be decided on after careful examination of the case, by the authority superior to the authority ordering the interning.
- Every British civilian who so desires will be granted permission to leave the country. British civilians subject to military service may return home after making a declaration that they will not bear arms for the duration of this war. Departure will be refused only to those British civilians against whom penal proceedings have been initiated and as long as these proceedings are pending or until the penalty imposed in such proceedings is performed.
- Interned persons will be treated according to the principles of the Geneva Convention concerning the treatment of prisoners of war of July 27, 1929.9 Under Article 86 of this convention the power protecting British interests may have the camps inspected by representatives or delegates.
“The above principles will also be observed by Germany, in case reciprocity is granted, with regard to British civilians from the overseas possessions. The German Government welcomes the proposals of the United States of America to make the above principles the subject of an agreement between the belligerents especially since their observance has always been regarded as necessary by Germany and they have constantly been observed since the beginning of hostilities. Thus male British subjects in Germany were given an opportunity to depart up to September 5, 1940 and other British subjects until September 7, 1940. This opportunity was used on a large scale. Departures were prohibited only after it became known that Reich nationals in Great Britain had been prevented from returning home and even women had been arrested beginning as early as September 2, 1939. When it further developed that in default of the granting of reciprocity it was not possible as originally intended, to release from Germany those British subjects who could not be left at liberty for reasons of public security, they had to be interned. In this process each individual case was carefully investigated with the result that a large number of British subjects were not interned. The cases of the interned persons have also been constantly re-examined subsequent to consideration being given particularly to the representations of the power protecting British interests and the complaints of the interned persons.
“The consequence was that a number of interned persons were released. In anticipation of reciprocity which has not as yet been assured by Great Britain the interned personnel have constantly been [Page 194]treated according to the principles of the Geneva Convention concerning the treatment of prisoners of war.
“The Government of the United States of America is aware that the German forces have always been prepared, in case reciprocity is granted, to permit enemy aliens to depart. In the interests of expediting a settlement of the matter it drops to [the?] proposal it has hitherto made that the departure of persons subject to military service be made dependent on a declaration by the countries involved that they will not enlist them for service under arms and accepts the original proposal of the Government of the United States of America to permit persons subject to the military service to return home as soon as they themselves have made a declaration that they will not bear arms during this war.
“In agreeing to the departure of British citizens from Germany if they so desire, the German Government makes the sole exception that British civilians against whom penal proceedings have been initiated may not depart as long as these proceedings are pending or until a penalty imposed in such proceedings has been performed. The German Government has so decided in order clearly to circumscribe and restrict the cases of exception and to insure in practice that they be judged by the lawful provisions of penal procedure.
“As soon as there is a declaration from the British Government that it also recognizes as binding upon itself the principles listed above under (a)–(e), the necessary measures can be taken by both sides without delay to enable the persons concerned to depart.
“The German Government would be pleased if a corresponding arrangement could be brought about with regard to the Dominions as well.”
This German memorandum of February 13 it was orally stated at the Foreign Office had been drafted and approved before information set forth in a telegram from the Embassy at London number 48, February 7, 7 p.m., had been received by the German Government. The British Note of February 6 contained therein on this subject is now under consideration at the Foreign Office where it was pointed out that the German memorandum is in many respects responsive to the British note under reference.
Above transmitted for your information. Kirk. Cudahy.